Oliver starts bawling as his dad, cuddling the infant, gets into knots trying to calm the toddler down. Sitting, standing and walking around – nothing works. Perhaps he needs his mummy. Yuey Tan dismisses the thought and thinks there has to be something he isn’t doing right.
Claire Jedrek shows up after her photo shoot, gently relieves her husband from carrying Oliver, and their son immediately stops crying. “He’s usually very relaxed and not like this when out with us,” insists Tan, a little flustered.
In many ways, Jedrek, 36, is a calming influence on Tan’s life, which has been a push to the limits in the fast lane, literally. They are a dream act. Both are racing drivers and can boast to have slayed dragons in their own right.
Since she started racing in 2014 as the only woman in the Malaysian Super Series, Jedrek has outdriven established drivers and occasionally got on the podium. An 11-year veteran in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia series, Tan won a championship category in 2015. The 37-year-old also spent a season in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup in Europe last year. Driving a Porsche 911 GT3, he even raced a Boeing 747 on the runway of Changi Airport in 2009, just for the heck of it – and the publicity, of course.
The couple are a rare breed many times over. Few racing drivers end up getting married, find time to start a family and, on top of it all, own a successful business that is centred on their passion for motor sports. Theirs is an unlikely story, especially in a country that does not have a racing track to help racing drivers bloom. And the journey has so far yielded promising returns.
They met in 2006, started dating seriously six years later, and tied the knot in 2016. It was a year after they became a couple – in 2013 – that their interest in business began to take shape. At that time, Tan managed to lease land that was under development near Aviation Park Road at Changi, and built a 1.1km karting circuit. He wanted to promote motor sports in a big way, and it was there that Jedrek started racing, in karts initially. But, after four months, they were unable to get an extension and had to give it up.
“We had a bit of training when we worked there together, which is one of the hardest things for any couple,” says Jedrek. “Since then, I’ve worked with him in all our businesses and in very stressful conditions. We learnt along the way and our motto now is, ‘The only way is to win.’ Failure isn’t an option and we have to always keep moving forward.”
Strapping in for the ride
Move on, they did. They’ve turned sponsorship money that funded their racing into smart investments, but it is another smaller 500m track, Karting Arena, that they built at Bukit Timah’s Turf City in 2015 that is paying off. Their goal there is to open racing to the masses, because two other tracks in Kranji and Jurong are catering to serious karters.
“It’s been doing great from the get-go, because we’ve got a stronger team managing our kart track now,” Tan says, beaming with pride. “Our corporate business, which makes up 85 per cent of our revenue, has also been really good, because we are the only circuit that focuses on fun karting.”
Jedrek chimes in: “Far from it being an extension of our lives, what has been important to us is opening racing up to anyone who wants to try karting, as a lot of people think this sport is niche and exclusive, and not for them.”
Training the next generation
The pair has also been on a mission to share their love for motor racing and what they learnt from it, with the very young. They hold courses for schools at the karting facility and they don’t only teach about the nuts and bolts of the sport.
Explains Tan: “We want to tell children about the history of motor racing and the opportunities it opens up for them. It is not only about racing because, in this industry, they can be a photographer, engineer, marketer or even a journalist. Our aim is to start them from Step 1. We want them to discover there are more choices in life.”
“The principles behind it are the sports psychology of things that teaches the importance of having a positive mentality about where you are going and how you are going to get there. It is about the rest of your life.” – Claire Jedrek
Through her own experiences, Jedrek says motor racing has imparted valuable lessons to her, something she wants to tell those who go to the track. “It has given me so much happiness,” she enthuses. “The principles behind it are the sports psychology of things that teaches the importance of having a positive mentality about where you are going and how you are going to get there. It is about the rest of your life. I’m now a lot more organised, timely and learn not to panic, because these are things you learn (while) racing at high speeds.”
So, how financially worthwhile has their journey been so far? While they guard closely what they are worth, Tan, when pressed, lifts the veil a little. He owns a Porsche GT3, Ferrari 458 Italia and a Range Rover that is strictly for family time.
“We reinvest our money in bonds, houses – that kind of stuff – because, as we get older, we want to invest more of our money and do less work. This is what Fernando Alonso (Formula 1 double champion) is doing,” says Tan.
Jedrek points out that sharing the same passion has benefited their business partnership because they know the demands of motor racing. Competing in a championship that lasts for months and requires frequent travels has taken a toll on many couples.
She says: “I’ve missed birthdays, weddings and important family and social dates, because I had to race. So I can understand when Yuey can’t be with me. If I am about to give birth to our second child, which we are planning to have soon, and he has to race, I’ve told him he should go if this ever happens.”
Tan explains sponsors will not invest in anyone or will even back out of a deal, if they can’t be assured that the drivers they back are totally committed to racing.
“I know of drivers who lose focus because their wives nag and kick up a fuss, when they spend too much time away from them,” he says. “They were nice when they were just girlfriends, but that changed after they got married. So I am lucky to have Claire – I’ve won more races and even clinched a championship after meeting and marrying her.”